Tui: I'd written a bunch of books before Wings of Fire, as you mentioned. A unifying theme of all of them is I really am interested in telling stories from different perspectives. When you read one book, you'll see the other characters. You'll find out more about them as you read their books. That was one thing that I was really interested in. I also really just love writing fantasy. I've always read fantasy. I find it one of the most fun genres to read. With Wings of Fire, it started with -- my agent and I were talking about all of my ideas for different projects. He said, “Have you ever thought about doing something that was focused on dragons” -- he knew that I loved dragons -- “with them as the heroes of the story?” I immediately got excited because it fit into those themes I'd been thinking about. All the books that I'd read, the humans were the heroes of the story. The dragon were there, but they were the sidekicks or the transportation or the bad guys. They never got to be the center hero. I thought wouldn't it be interesting to write a whole series where the dragons get to tell their own stories? I thought that would be really fun to do.
Jennifer: Out of Place is the story of a twelve-year-old girl named Cove who lives on Martha’s Vineyard, which is an island off of Cape Code, with her mom. She's never left the island once in her entire life, which was fine with her until the day that her best friend Nina comes and tells Cove that Nina’s going to be moving to New York City with Nina’s two fathers. In that moment, Cove’s entire life feels like it’s falling apart. She has no idea how to make it better. It’s a story about friendship and mistakes and big acts of courage.
Ricardo: How I map out a story like this is basically on a back of a napkin. I'm doing storyboarding out of what I think are the important beats. In terms of illustrating itself, the way I work best is actually working with models or working with actual children. The illustrations in this book [Party] are pretty -- maybe photorealistic is a way to describe it. They look like actual children. It’s not really stylized. The kids in the story are actually some friends of mine that I did a series of photoshoots with and tried to storyboard out certain actions and emotions.
Jamaica: I didn't know that people still wrote serious literature. I thought they just wrote penguin detective stories and romances. I didn't know that there was such a thing as writing. I must have always wanted to be an artist or something because I thought I would be a photographer. I studied photography. I began to write out the photographs. It occurred to me then that I'm a writer. I quit the college I was going to in New Hampshire, returned to New York, and started to write. The funny thing about being in America, at least in those days -- I don't know, anymore, what America is like. In those days, whatever you said you were, people said, “Oh, yes. That's what you are because you said so.” I said I was a writer. People said yes. One thing led to the other. Then I started to write for The New Yorker. It’s an improbable tale, but all too true. Every word of it is true.
Christina: If I were to go back and talk to myself in my twenties, I would tell her to just do exactly what she's doing. Use your twenties to learn. Have your eyes and ears open. Absorb as much as you can. Then for me, my thirties were about starting my family. That was a whole journey in and of itself and self-discovery and awareness. Now my forties have become this renaissance in my career.
Chris: Random House got in touch with me a couple years ago and said, “Chris, you've been writing all these Sesame Street songs. You wrote two Beginner Books with your mom at the beginning,” which I did. “Do you think you could write a book in the old Beginner Book style using the original rules?” I said, “I sure would love to try.” That would be bringing things full circle. I tried. I wrote A Skunk in my Bunk! They liked it. It was just published a couple months ago. It happened.
Allison: There's this little girl Nelly who, along with her mischievous little pal, the beagle named Bagel, wakes up one morning in her New York City home. Even though she knows her city and she's a very street-smart little girl, she hears her city being referred to as the Big Apple. She takes that literally. She and Bagel set off to find this big apple.